Nearly 100 years ago, a local government in Southern California took Bruce's Beach away from its Black owners because of the color of their skin. The owners' descendants won a long effort to regain the land and now they intend to sell it to Los Angeles County for nearly $20 million.
The return of Bruce's Beach to the descendants of Willa and Charles Bruce last summer was hailed as a step toward righting the wrongs inflicted by systemic racism. County officials say the pending sale will go some way toward restoring the wealth that was stripped from the Bruce family in 1924.
"This fight has always been about what is best for the family, and they feel what is best for them is selling this property back to the County for nearly $20 million," said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Janice Hahn.
The sale, Hahn said, will help the Bruce family in "finally rebuilding the generational wealth they were denied for nearly a century."
The city of Manhattan Beach moved to condemn Bruce's Beach in 1924, shutting down what had quickly become a thriving resort for Black families and one of the few spots where they were assured access to a beach, as NPR's Joe Hernandez reported last year. Years later, the land was transferred to the state, and then to LA County.
In 2021, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill clearing the way for the beach to be transferred back to the descendants of Willa and Charles Bruce.
"I want to apologize to the Bruce family for the injustice that was done to them," Newsom said at the time, according to NBC Los Angeles. "We haven't always had a proud past."
New Bruce's Beach Plaque Unveiled
On Saturday morning, the city of Manhattan Beach unveiled its new plaque at Bruce's Beach Park - as the mayor apologized to the Black families impacted by the city's nearly 100-year-old actions.
The plaque unveiling had been expected, but what was not expected was Manhattan Beach Mayor Steve Napolitano offering an apology to the Black families who were uprooted from their homes in a racially motivated action by the city in the 1920s.
"I personally apologize to the Bruces, the Prioleaus, the Pattersons, the Sanders, the Johnsons, the McCaskills, the Irvins, and the Slaughters for the wrongful racially motivated taking of their property by this city nearly 100 years ago," said Napolitano to applause by the crowd of more than 100.
The issue of the city not previously having offered an "apology" has been a sore point to many Bruce's Beach advocates. While the descendants of the families had asked for an apology - and the city's Bruce's Beach Task Force had recommended one - some councilmembers had expressed concerns that making an apology would open them to liability.